Cook: At the Minute You Watch Us Nervously Waiting For Something Wrong to Happen
Saturday, 20th Mar 2021 16:59
Town boss Paul Cook felt the Blues played really well for 42 minutes but that Portsmouth’s equaliser changed the momentum of the match as his return to Fratton Park ended in a 2-1 defeat.
James Norwood gave Town the lead but Pompey skipper Tom Naylor levelled three minutes before the break and Marcus Harness netted the home side’s winner in the second half.
“I felt for 42 minutes until Portsmouth equalised that we were playing really well,” Cook said. “I thought we so much better than we have offered up away from home previously, I thought we played off our front foot, I thought we created chances, I thought we looked a threat.
“And then we found ourselves at 1-1 sitting in the dressing room at half-time against a team that really hadn’t threatened anything.
“And that’s the disappointing thing, there’s so much work to do, as people know, and our supporters will be so disappointed but we’ve got to make sure now that we react to results.
“It’s my job at the minute to find out about the players and the character of the players. Like I just said to them in there, ‘We’re a club of great structure and we’ve all got to make sure, myself included, that we’re good enough to be here because if we’re not good enough to be here, the reality is someone will take our place one day’. And that includes myself and the players.”
Reflecting on the game further, he added: “We don’t score enough goals, that’s there for everyone to see. Latterly, we’ve given a couple away.
“I’m a great believer that you work harder, you trust your players, I asked them for so much in the game today and I felt for 42 minutes they gave me everything that I asked for.
“We’re away from home to a good club, a big club, we never came under any pressure. We never kicked them off the line or the goalkeeper had to make big saves.
“And we find the ability then to concede a goal from a basic corner into the box. And the lad has another free header within six yards of our goal.
“With the greatest respect to coaching and managing, it’s not really that hard to defend, is it? You’ve got to be aggressive, you’ve got to want to defend but unfortunately at the minute we’re just in that little position as a group of people that we’re always waiting for someone else to be the one to do it.
“That won’t be us going forward. We’ll make sure we have men and character in the team, something that’s just a little bit lacking at the minute.”
Cook disputed the suggestion that his players might be suffering from a lack of confidence: “Was it a week ago we beat Plymouth 1-0? Seven days? How can you lack confidence in seven days? That’s football.
“What you’ve got to have, you’ve got to have a maturity and mental strength and a mental toughness which unfortunately as a team at the minute, and I include myself in the team, I include all my staff, the players, as a group of people we don’t have that enough.
“And when we come to away grounds we’ve only got each other, we really have. And today unfortunately, when we looked to the back five, six to come and just get us into half-time winning 1-0, we can then affect the game better in the second half.
“But the reality is that the momentum of the game changed. Fair play to Danny and Nicky [Cowley, the new Pompey management team], good luck to them, it was their first game, they had a good win, but second half it just petered out into a poor League One game, which looked like it was going to be 1-1. But unfortunately for us we found a way to get beaten.”
Asked whether character will be high on his list of requirements when it comes to recruiting in the summer, Cook said: “I don’t want to get into those conversations. Like I told the players, I don’t want to be a manager who threatens players and different stuff.
“We’ve all got a real privilege at the minute. We represent our club and the reality is that we’ve got 11 games and in those 11 games we can totally turn everyone’s opinion on us right round.
“We won’t do it by speaking on radios and talk shows, we’ll do it by working on the training ground, getting a winning result in the palm of our hand and seeing the game out resolutely. At that point then we’ll be able to take steps forward.”
Was the game tougher because Pompey had just appointed new manager Danny Cowley? “I don’t know. I think we make our own problems as a team at the minute. I thought for 42 or 43 minutes we looked like by far the better team, we were comfortably in the ascendency, I don’t think that Portsmouth, and I could be wrong, had been our box. They’d offered no threat.
“Again in football goals change games and that one just before half-time really did some psychological damage to us because mentally we’re not as strong as we should be and you always feel at the minute that there might be something in us that goes the wrong way. That certainly came to the fore today again.”
Asked how that might change, he said: “It doesn’t, does it? Before the end of the season, you just keep working hard. It’s like I said to the players, you had a 42-minute performance and you had a game in the palm of your hand, and the reality is that we had the game in the palm of our hand again going forward.
“It’s hard in management because everyone listens to every interview, the Ipswich fans now, we’re in a promotion campaign that we don’t really look like we’re in at the minute but results could change that.
“The reality is that we’ve got to take the positives out of it, we’ve got to stop giving goals away and we’ve got to start going score. So the challenge is all there.”
Quizzed on whether he had any complaints about the second goal with a number of his players having indicated that they felt the ball had gone out of play in the build-up, he said: “We could find a way to get beaten, couldn’t we? It’s just football. I think one day soon we’ll be in a position where we’ll be able to talk about the game with a different outlook.
“At the minute you watch us nervously waiting for something wrong to happen and that’s got to change, hasn’t it?”
Asked what he makes of the push for the play-offs as it stands, he added: “I just keep going. I’ve said it all the time, if you want to be successful, you’ve got to win games. If you don’t win football games then you will not be successful.”
Regarding Armando Dobra making his first appearance under his management as a sub, he said: “We lack goals in the team, we have flair players at the club and within the flair players I’m trying my best to be fair as I can but without being destructive to the team.
“I genuinely myself I think the way we play it would be nice to see Jackson and Norwood together as a front two but the reality for front twos is you give up midfield and there are so many debates in football today.
“As I say, for 42, 43 minutes today we looked a good side. I enjoyed watching us play. Yet that goal just changed the total momentum and that’s something that we’ve got to seriously look at and work hard to be better at.”
He says pairing Norwood and Jackson is something he has thought about a lot: “Oh yes, without a shadow of a doubt. It’s a front two that offers you everything you want out of a front two. It’s got pace, it’s got energy, it’s got everything.
“But I’m a great believer that you defend from the front and I thought our energy levels from the front went a little today.
“I don’t want to start debating the game, I’m sure our supporters don’t want to listen to me do that. The only thing they want to listen to is that we’re not happy with it, we’re hurting bad, as you can imagine as because we still have an opportunity to get out of this league this season and if we can grasp that opportunity, then we’ll do it.”
Kane Vincent-Young’s return as a sub in the second half was a big positive for the Blues on an otherwise disappointing afternoon.
“They’re great moments, aren’t they?” Cook said. “Especially players like that. In the modern-day game you need to have ammunition all over the pitch, certainly in wide areas and penetrating areas from full-backs, and there’s none better than Kane. It’s a really big plus that he was back on the pitch today.”
Asked whether James Wilson, who made way for Vincent-Young, had picked up a knock, he said: “No, no. At the end of the day I’m not going to debate. I don’t want to debate every player and individuals because we’ve got too many.
“The reality is that when we’re not winning now, going forward it’s my job to make sure I’m looking at every option available.
“Today the disappointing thing is that we didn’t come under pressure in the game. And away from home, if you don’t come under pressure, you have to win and unfortunately we didn’t do that.”
Cook spent plenty of time talking to old colleagues from his time at Portsmouth and was disappointed that his second return ended in a defeat, as his first did with Wigan.
“Listen, I had great times at the club. It’s always disappointing, I’ve been back twice now and been beaten 2-1 twice,” he said.
“Good luck to Danny and Nicky, they’re good guys, they’re in charge of a great club, I wish them well, but today we should have taken something out of that game, we really should. Not on our second half performance but certainly on our first half and unfortunately we haven’t.”
New Pompey boss Danny Cowley was delighted with the victory having been appointed yesterday.
“It’s a great start, an important win at an important time of the season. I just want to credit the players and the football staff.
“It’s been a hugely tough week for them when you consider what they’ve been through.
“They lost after extra-time [to Salford in the Papa John's Trophy final] at Wembley [last Satuday] and then a manager [Kenny Jackett] who was highly thought of in the dressing room lost his job.
“They then had to go to [Peterborough] on Tuesday, where they came up a little bit short.
“So to show the desire and intensity they showed, we weren’t free-flowing, but we showed an incredible amount of determination and resilience.”
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